Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Fold A Fitted Sheet

Finally!! Here is an easy-to-understand demonstration of how to fold a fitted sheet properly. This is the first time I have ever been shown how to do this. I hope it helps you keep your linen closet tidy. :) 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Favorite Quote #15

"The only woman pretty enough to go without makeup was Elizabeth Taylor, and she wore a TON." 

                            -Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep), 
                                             August: Osage County

Monday, August 25, 2014

And Here We Go....

   A new academic year. A new university president. All new students. A new class for me. New places to go this year. I am moving forward, lurching and chugging along. Letting go of the old makes room for the new. Why is this so hard for me? I sit on the floor and do my yoga stretches in pain. It didn't used to be this hard. I see Jane Fonda get old but she still looks better in a leotard than I do. Old men ask me out. Young ones flirt with me. I chopped my hair off because it was weighing me down. I miss my friends who are gone, really gone. I want to see some people from my past, but I can't because they are so hateful to me. How is this my fault? Why can't I just focus on the people who have always been good to me? I thought I'd never have any regrets if I did everything with my heart wide open. Didn't I? Didn't I do everything with my heart wide open??
   COME AND GET ME, ghost from my past. We could settle this once and for all. Instead of that lingering bitterness. I know you are angry. I know it because you refuse to talk to me. I heard you had a funeral for me, even though I'm not dead. 
   I am still moving along, but maybe not quite as fast as I used to. I didn't have a funeral for you. I couldn't stand to think about you.

   This lady doesn't want to live with any regrets. 
I don't know who took this picture. But I like it!

   Today a student came in wanting to retake some classes. He plans to get a degree from another university, and he wants his transcript to look better. But, I asked him, why bother trying to clean up your mess here when you can start NEW somewhere? 
   He thought about it, and then he left. And I thought about it, too. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Favorite Quote #14

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." 

                                                -Pablo Picasso

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Our Antenna Is Bigger Than Yours

The "BAT" Tower on approach.  Photo by J. Lewter

   Dover, Arkansas is primarily known for its water adventure spots like Big Piney Creek and the Long Pool swimming hole, and for its mysterious phenomenon called the Dover Lights. Less well known is the fact that there is a world-class radio tower just seven miles west of the city. 
   In the 50's and 60's, AT&T built microwave towers across the country to serve as phone lines over vast stretches of land. They were called "Long Lines," and they supported long distance and international phone calls. One of these towers was placed near Dover, where it could send and receive microwave data to and from its sister towers in Petit Jean and Clarksville.
   Like may structures made during the Cold War Era, the towers were built to withstand the radiation fallout from a possible nuclear war (provided that the actual explosion was at least five miles away from the towers.) Concrete buildings shielded with copper were built near the base of the towers to serve as fallout shelters, and the buildings were equipped with diesel generators to keep things going no matter what happened.
   Eventually the microwave towers were replaced with a different technology. Fiberoptic cables could support a larger bandwidth to meet the growing demand for Internet accessibility. Many of the original towers still exist today, but they are either used as cell phone towers, or private citizens have purchased them for personal use. 
   In 2001, Dennis Schaefer and five of his friends did just that. The 113-foot-tall tower near Dover has become the pride and joy of six ham operators who regularly host radio contests at their station. They installed a huge, rotating, high frequency (HF) antenna at the top of the tower, as well as a very high frequency (VHF) antenna , an ultra high frequency (UHF) antenna, and there are currently three dipole antennas attached to the tower. "You need a separate antenna for each frequency band," explained Schaefer, a former Air Force microwave technician. 
   Depending on the daily ionospheric conditions, a radio operator at the station can talk to nearly any other radio station in the world, including Antarctica. The men are very happy to have visitors come see the tower and participate in the annual radio contests. "My wife said, 'This is like deer camp for nerds,'" said Schaefer. 
   The call sign for the station is K5BAT, which was hand-picked by the owners. Formally, the "BAT" means "Big Arkansas Tower," but in reality, when ladies and children are not present, it stands for "Big Ass Tower." 
   One of AT&T's mottos has been, "Communications is the foundation of democracy." In the past, there were certain countries (like Vietnam) that American hams were forbidden to contact. Today, however, there is no such thing as a "banned country list." 

   When asked why he wanted to own such a beast of a radio tower, Schaefer replied, "Everybody wants bigger antennas." And their antenna is bigger than yours. 

Up close and personal with the "BAT." Photo by J. Lewter

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I Can Do And What I Can't

It's a baby Jack. Caught in the Gulf of Mexico, May 2014.
   "This is just where I came in." I love this line from the Bee Gees. No one asked me if I wanted to be here, but I think I would've said yes regardless.
   I remember the person who turned me on to the Bee Gees. I remember him buying me a beer and handing me a cigarette when I got fired from my newspaper job. He was dating my roommate at the time, and he and I had barely spoken. I didn't think we had much in common. He was a little older than me, and he seemed standoffish. But the man knew a traumatized woman when he saw one. I was so thankful for his sympathy. He didn't say much. I remember being very still while he drove his car to a gas station. It was dark. I was trying not to cry. He handed me a cigarette even though I don't smoke. I lit it up. I was up feces creek without a paddle. Or at least I thought I was. As it turns out, I was offered a job the very next day. I just had to spend that one night on my bedroom floor, awake, shuddering in terror about the future. What was I going to do?! I had never been fired before. 

   I have read that your wounds are what allow you to have true sympathy, or empathy, for other people. I know this to be true. Maybe that man had been fired before. How else could he have been so understanding? When one of my friends loses a job, I am quick to support them. I know how awful that feeling is. What can be scarier than having the rug pulled out from under you when you have bills to pay? 

   Friends sometimes come from where you least expect them. I will always be thankful for my roommate's boyfriend. He seared a place in my heart that will never unravel. I was low, I was low. He kept me from crashing. And I never would have guessed that he could do that for me.

   Sometimes, when you are low, the people who you thought were your friends drop the ball. Or, in my experience, sometimes those people who you thought cared about you take that ball and throw it at your head while you are weak. That is called betrayal, and it is a terrible, terrible thing. I have seen it more than once. I have felt it more than twice. It is so bad, I want to apologize to anyone I may have betrayed while we were friends. I am sorry! There is no honor in trying to kill someone when they are down. 

   I recently read an article written by a nurse who works with terminally-ill patients. She compiled a list of the most common regrets she hears from people on their death-beds. One common regret is that people don't express themselves enough. We try too hard to "be nice" all the time so we can be socially accepted. This isn't always healthy. We get angry for a reason. When someone hurts you on purpose, you SHOULD get angry! I have been scolded by others and told that this is not lady-like. I suppose a lady should let her husband or boyfriend deal with her problems for her. All I can think of in response is that scene in the movie Winter's Bone where some redneck woman asks the main character Ree, "Ain't you got no men could do this?"
 "No ma'am, I don't," Ree replies. Cheers to that. I've been fighting my own battles so long, it's hard to think of it any other way. I can't undo any of the hurt I have caused people, and I can't take back any of the angry things I have said or done. If they could understand that I fight my own battles because I have always had to, then maybe I wouldn't seem so strange to them. Besides, since when does "being a lady" mean being an emotional cripple? 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Favorite Quote #13

   "I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out. "

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Being Nice Matters


   I found this picture at my Aunt's house while we were looking through my late Grandmother's collection of old photos. Neither one of us recognized him. 

   When we turned it over, there was no name or date written on it. 

   Who could this be? A cousin? A neighbor? A friend of the family? He looks blond, and there aren't many blond people in my family. We didn't recognize the house he is standing near. There didn't appear to be any way to identify him. 

  This is what was written on the back:

"He is an ass hole"

So, boys and girls, here is a lesson to remember:
Be nice to everyone you meet, or someday, the only remembrance anyone may have of you is that you were an asshole!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Science Cafe Hosts Exoplanet Talk In Little Rock

From Left: Dr. David Thomas, Dr. Jeff Robertson, and Dr. Scott Austin answer questions from the public at the "Science Cafe" panel discussion on exoplanets. Photo by J. Lewter
   Just in case you didn't know Little Rock sometimes serves as a hub of scientific information, now you do! The Science Cafe is an educational outreach effort featuring a new topic each month, and the topic for March was "Exoplanets: The Next Frontier." 
   Exoplanets are planets found outside of our Solar System, and we weren't even aware that they existed until 1995. 
   The guest speakers included astrobiologist Dr. David Thomas of Lyon College, astrophysicist Dr. Jeff Robertson of Arkansas Tech University, and astrophysicist Dr. Scott Austin of the University of Central Arkansas. The general public was invited to attend the panel discussion hosted by the Afterthought Bistro and Bar in Little Rock. 
   The question and answer session lasted for two hours, and among the most interesting things mentioned included, "planets are formed as by-products of star formation." What that means is every star in the sky probably has planets around it. 
   Right now we have evidence of nearly 5000 exoplanets (961 planets have been confirmed) from data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope. That's quite significant, considering back in 1994, we had evidence of 0 exoplanets. 
    What are the chances that one or more of these planets may have life on it? No one really knows the answer to that, but if you go outside on a clear night and count the stars you see, the sheer number of planets that are probably out there is larger than one can easily conceive. Why would Earth be the only one?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why I Love "Game Of Thrones"

Lord Varys: "I've always hated the bells. They ring for horror. A dead king, a city under seige..."

Tyrion Lannister: "A wedding."

Lord Varys: "Exactly."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Preparing For Battle"

"Preparing For Battle" - sketch by Dallas Minnie
   I was browsing through my neighbor's sketchbook in my graphic design class, and I came across this wonderfully tentacled warrior! "It's her hair," explained artist Dallas Minnie. This is a "female Tentaun" who is about to fight. (Her wristwatch shows a countdown of the time she has during battle.) 

   Don't mess with her. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Favorite Quote #12

"All we do in life, all I do in life, is for monsters. Let's keep them alive together."

               -Guillermo Del Toro, movie director

Friday, February 28, 2014

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson Came To Conway, Arkansas Last Night!!!

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on the UCA campus. Photo by Razorbackfoto
   I am still high from meeting him. I have seen Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson give a presentation before (about 10 years ago, in Washington D.C.) and I remember being blown away by it. I knew he was brilliant and charismatic. I asked around about him, and I was told "He's the new Carl Sagan."
  I heard a rumor he was coming to Conway this year, and then I was told he "came last year," so I gave up. I am a busy woman, and I have things to do! Then yesterday, about 20 minutes before we needed to leave, a friend called me and asked me if I wanted her ticket. OH YEAH!!! I later found out it took coordinators at the University of Central Arkansas two years to bring Dr. Tyson here, and the tickets all sold out within 45 minutes of being posted. 

My friend's husband had actually set an alarm clock so he would not miss out on buying tickets for his family to see Dr. Tyson live. 
   The UCA professor who introduced Dr. Tyson last night said, "I want you to stand back. You are dealing with a bad-ass." Dr. Tyson was immediately greeted with a standing ovation before his talk! His presentation was impressive, of course. Bits of scientific facts sprinkled with humor and gorgeous space photos. He was engaging and warm, genuinely funny and entertaining. He poked fun at biologists and geologists, and he promoted his new version of "Cosmos," the beloved television show that Carl Sagan made famous in 1980. 
   Tyson said he refers to young people born after 1995 as "Generation Exoplanet" because that's when we first started finding planets outside of our solar system. He said he liked that name better than "Generation X" or "Generation Y" because it sounded "forward-looking and scientific." 
The famous Allan Hills meteorite image. Is that a bacterium fossil?
   He talked about the possibility of life in the universe and he showed a famous image of the proposed microfossil in the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite that was published in Science magazine in 1996.  He shared a great idea on how to demonstrate the concept of panspermia for children. You can take a box of Cheerios and pour them all over a bed, then take your fist and punch the bed really hard. This would simulate the forces generated by a meteor impact, and would send Cheerios flying up into the air just as terrain from the planet would be ejected into the atmosphere. Little microbes hiding in rocks could conceivably break free from the gravitational forces of the planet and travel across space to "seed" another planet. (Don't mind the mess! It's all for the sake of science.)
   At the end of his talk, I asked Dr. Tyson if he had seen the electron microscope images of the Murchison meteorite, which have structures that look much more biological than the structures in the Allan Hills meteorite. He had not seen them! 
Here are living cyanobacteria on the left, and microfossils from the Murchison meteorite on the right. Doesn't this look more biological than the Allan Hills microfossil?
   While we were waiting in the long line to get a book autographed, one of the meeting chaperones told us that Dr. Tyson talked for more than an hour longer than planned. How lucky for us! And it was so wonderful to see how much attention he paid to the young people who had questions.

   The new "Cosmos" will air Sunday, March 9, 2014, on FOX. Here is the official trailer: 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Curiosity Shops and The Cabin In The Woods (SPOILER ALERT!)

The Cabin In The Woods movie poster
    I have finally entered the world of digital arts. I did my very first homework assignment as an invitation to a make-believe curiosity shop. On my postcard, I used Adobe Illustrator to draw apothecary jars full of strange, happy little creatures swimming in colored fluid. After a few weeks of frustration and several You Tube video tutorials, (I have never used Illustrator before), I presented my work to the class. My favorite comment was, "I love how this looks like a little kid did it." Lol
   My very sweet and tactful art instructor said my postcard reminded her a bit of the movie The Cabin In The Woods. I told her I hadn't seen the movie because I'm a big chicken. She assured me it wasn't that scary. My friend Shawnna and my brother both urged me to watch it since it has my all-time favorite actress in it, so I gathered up my courage and some popcorn and I did it. That was quite an entertaining movie! I first recognized Bradley Whitford, who played a major role on television's The West Wing. His character was always a little annoying to me on TV, so I was okay with him being one of the evil businessmen in this movie. Early in the film, I was totally freaked out by the tobacco-spitting Vietnam Vet with a bloody eye at the run-down gas station, but then I was laughing heartily at the scene where they put him on speaker-phone in the control room. Humor and terror in the same film? Nicely done, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. 
   I have one technical comment about the foreshadowing scene where an apparent golden eagle screams and then flies into a force field. That scream is from a red tailed hawk, although the movie industry constantly shows images of eagles making that same noise. (I know this is inaccurate because I share a building with a bunch of fish and wildlife professors.) 
    Chris Hemsworth makes a hunky jock (God I love the Hemsworth brothers!) and I love the "virgin" character Dana (played by Kristen Connolly.) Near the end, when The Director of the whole horror scenario reveals herself (Sigourney Weaver!), Dana starts to protest that she, in fact, is not a virgin. "We work with what we have," explains The Director. 
   The scenes of werewolves, ghosts, monsters, zombies, ghouls, gargantuan bats and snakes, etc. all being held in small glass cages to be released at the will of the controllers was pretty original. It seems many of the monsters were from past movies, but I couldn't be sure about all of them. And that was the link between my curiosity shop postcard and this movie - containers full of all sorts of creatures. Thank you, art teacher, for even loosely associating my work with this fun movie. What a compliment!

   And here is a short clip of an actual red tailed hawk screaming:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mockingjay *SERIOUS SPOILER ALERT!!!!* (Hunger Games Book 3)

"Mockingjay" -  the Hunger Games finale
   I finally read the third book in Suzanne Collins' FANTASTIC Hunger Games book series, and I AM SO FREAKING HAPPY THAT GALE DIDN'T DIE!!!  One of my idiot co-workers told me years ago that Katniss is forced to kill a boy she grew up with, and as I read through books one and two, I dreaded finding out what would happen in book three, the darkest of the series. ("You'll wanna kill yourself after you read that one," a lady at the bookstore told me.) So I waited a long time to read it. After Catching Fire (book two) came out to the theaters, I knew I had to hurry up and read book three before anyone told me anything else. Then, unexpectedly, another co-worker/friend started telling me how Gale "betrays Katniss," and I couldn't make her shut up. Gale? Is it Gale she kills? The whole time I was reading Mockingjay, I had to cover the remainder of the page as well as the next page to avoid looking ahead for clues about who was going to die! Gods, what a page-turner. Who dies? Peeta or Gale? Gale or Peeta?!!! ARGHHHHHH!!!! Thankfully, thankfully, neither of them dies. Whew....

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Soul Of An Independent Woman

My art instructor is younger than me. (I am careful to be respectful of her because I know how uncomfortable it can be to have another instructor in the classroom.) I watch her teach her trade effortlessly. Her long curly hair is always pulled back. She likes to wear stylish boots and zip-up hoodies. She is non-pretentious (which surprised me a bit since she is an art instructor.) When she takes role, she never says my name out loud because she KNOWS if I am there. When I ask her questions, she answers me sincerely and earnestly. I do not think she is married. I do not think she has children. She drives a long way to teach this one class. Is it worth it? Adjunct pay is not impressive. When I look at her, I see a young woman fending for herself. I see a young person finding her way in the world. I see her walking a line that she will someday, over time, fall off of or get pushed from. I do not know much else about her, except when I talk to her I can see right through her. She has the soul of an innocent child. I do not detect damage or abuse. I do not see tattoos or scars on her body. I see youth and hope, and the will to follow her life's passion as long as society will let her. I also see frailty, and how easy it would be to hurt her. She is not perfect. But when she talks to you, she looks directly into your eyes the way a young deer would if you offered it food. There's something a little bit wild there, a little bit untrusting. Is there anything as pure as the soul of an independent woman? 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014. A New Year.


   I stayed up late last night watching Pacific Rim with my nephew and my mother. We slid into 2014 before I even realized it. Exactly one year ago on this night, I was watching Star Trek movies and drinking beer with my father....in the very same living room at my parents' house.
   New Year's Eve never meant that much to me. I was never a big late-night party person. I don't sleep well in strange places. I don't like being cold. I don't like taking taxis and I hate wearing heels. The best New Year's party I ever attended was on the roof of my dorm in Huntsville, Alabama many years ago. It was probably 1996-1997, and I really don't remember how we managed to get up on the roof. But I do remember tons of very happy young people being up there. A fairly large percentage of us were ROTC cadets. We were excited. We were having fun. Some people were shooting off bottle rockets. We knew we would get in trouble soon. But we didn't. No one told on us. We were all college kids in the middle of campus screaming on our rooftop. We forgot for a moment how uncertain all of our futures were. My constant state of panic subsided for a bit while I shared in the joy of bringing in a brand new year.
   A few days ago, one of my most beloved friends and I were scrambling through a large graveyard in the dark. We were looking for my father's grave, and the sun had slipped away on us. I think it is unlawful to be in a graveyard after dark. But we didn't live in that state and we didn't have much time. And we certainly weren't there to vandalize anything. 
   We found Konrad Dannenberg's grave by accident, and I know my father would have been pleased to find out he had been buried so close to one of the original Von Braun German rocket scientists. It was mere coincidence, of course, and just one of the many things I wish I could tell him. 
   We found my Dad's grave and left soon after. And thankfully, no one told on us.